Frogs and Toads of the North Shore / Northeastern Massachusetts

True Frogs (Ranidae)

American Bullfrog
(Lithobates catesbeianus)

American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain)

American Bullfrog
(Lithobates catesbeianus) Range Map

Description:  3.5 to 6 in long, occasionally up to 8 in. Bullfrogs have olive-green backs, either plain or mottled grayish-brown. The underside is off-white blotched with yellow or gray. Limbs are blotched or banded with gray. Large eardrums (tympani) appear as circles just behind the eyes. Both Green Frogs and Bullfrogs have a fold of skin (dorsolateral folds) running down the sides of their backs. On a Bullfrog, this fold ends just behind the eardrum. On the very similar Green Frog the fold runs almost the entire length of the body. Front feet are not webbed, hind feet have webbing between the toes with the exception of the fourth toe. Bullfrogs are dimorphic (males and females exhibit different physical characteristics). Males are smaller than females with yellow throats and eardrums larger than their eyes. Eardrums in females are near the same size as the eyes.

Occurrence:  Common

Habitat:  Deep permanent water with emergent vegetation including lakes, large ponds and river oxbows. Remains in the same body of water unless water levels are changing or unstable. Generally found near the shoreline, occasionally on floating logs away from shore.

Diet:  Small animals, fish, other frogs, salamanders, newts, young turtles, snakes, small birds, mice, crayfish, insects, snails and spiders.

Reproduction  Sexually mature in fourth or fifth year. Breeds late May to July. Deposits 12,000 to 20,000 eggs in floating films of jelly on calm water. Eggs hatch in 5 to 20 days and hatchlings remain in tadpole stage for 2 or 3 winters.

Green Frog
(Lithobates clamitans)

Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans) (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain)

Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans) Range Map

Description:  2 to 4 inches in length. Green frogs have a fold of skin (dorsolateral folds) running down the sides of their back. On a Green Frog, the fold runs along almost the entire length of the body, compared to the similar Bullfrog where the fold ends at the eardrum.
The Green Frog’s back ranges from brown, bronze, or olive to green, bicolor or bluish. Underside is white, sometimes with blotches or spots. The eardrum (tympani) is larger than the eye.

Occurrence:  Common

Habitat:  Shores of lakes, ponds, creeks, streams, quarries, springs and vernal pools. Usually found within 10 feet of water.

Diet:  Insects, insect larvae, worms, small fish, crayfish, crustaceans, newts, spiders, small frogs, mollusks, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, caterpillars. Beetles are the most important food items. Tadpoles are herbivorous.

Reproduction  Breeds April to August with peak in mid-May. Deposits 3,500 to 4,000 eggs in a gelatinous floating mass attached to underwater twigs and stems. Eggs hatch in 3 to 6 days. Remains in tadpole phase for 1 to 2 years.

Northern leopard frog
(Lithobates pipiens)

Northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens) (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain)

Northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens) Range Map

Description:  2 to 4 inches long. Green or brown with dark round spots that have pale borders. Underside is white or cream colored. Spots may be absent on juveniles. Has folds of skin (dorsolateral folds) running the entire length of the body.

Occurrence:  Locally Common

Habitat:  Wet open meadows and fields. River flood plains.

Diet:  Insects, butterfly larvae, wasps, bugs, crickets, grasshoppers, ants, sowbugs, spiders, small crayfish, snails, centipedes, millipedes. Mostly insects and spiders, especially beetles.

Reproduction  Breeds March to May. Deposits 4,000 to 6,500 eggs in shallow water, sometimes attached to twigs. Eggs hatch between two to three weeks. Remain in tadpole phase for 2 to 3 months.

Pickerel Frog
(Lithobates palustris)

Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris) (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain)

Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris) Range Map

Description:  Approximately 2.5 inches long. Olive back with dark brown or black spots often arranged in two regular rows that are squarish or rectangular. Underside is often light yellow. Has folds of skin (dorsolateral folds) running along it’s back which can also appear as light yellow.

Occurrence:  Locally Common

Habitat:  Cold clear-water lakes, ponds, streams, springs, sphagnum bogs, quarries. Sometimes found at a distance from water in pastures fields and forests.

Diet:  Arthropods, snails, small crayfish, amphipods (freshwater shrimp) and isopods.

Reproduction  Breeds March to May. Deposits 2,000 to 3,000 eggs in firm masses attached to underwater plants and branches. Eggs hatch in 11 to 21 days. Remain in tadpole phase for 80 to 100 days.

Wood Frog
(Lithobates sylvaticus)

Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain)

Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) Range Map

Description:  1.5 to 3+ inches long. Has a conspicuous black or dark brown mask from snout to just behind the eardrums. Gray to tan to reddish brown back, sometimes with black or dark brown markings. Underside is white and sometimes darkly mottled with dark markings on the chest. Has folds of skin (dorsolateral folds) running down the sides of the body which are darker on the outside edge (away from the spine) than inside edge (nearest the spine).

Occurrence:  Locally Common

Habitat:  Moderately moist forests, sometimes far from water. Prefers areas with vernal pools for breeding.

Diet:  Insects, especially beetles, flies, wasps, bees and ants. Also spiders, snails, slugs and worms.

Reproduction  Breeds March to July. Deposits 2,000 to 3,000 eggs in a spherical mass attached to underwater twigs or unattached on the bottom of ponds. Eggs hatch in 10 to 30 days. Remains in tadpole phase for 6 to 15 weeks.

Tree Frogs (Hylidae)

Gray Treefrog
(Hyla versicolor)

Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain)

Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) Range Map

Description:  1.25 to 2.25 inches long. Warty skin and large adhesive pads on toes. Back color ranges from green, light-green, gray, brown or dark brown. Often has an irregular darker pattern on their back. Has a white or lighter patch under each eye that is not always obvious on females. Underside is white.

Occurrence:  Common

Habitat:  Forested areas with small trees, shrubs and bushes in shallow water. Often found in wet areas in hollow trees, under loose bark or inside rotted logs in summer.

Diet:  Small insects, spiders, plant lice, mites, and snails.

Reproduction  Breeds early-May to July. Deposits 1,800 to 2,000 eggs in packets of 5 to 40 loosely attached to shallow underwater vegetation. Eggs hatch in 4 to 5 days. Remains in tadpole phase for 50 to 60 days.

Northern Spring Peeper
(Pseudacris crucifer)

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain)

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) Range Map

Description:  .75 to 1.25 inches long. Coloring varies between brown to gray or olive (rarely yellow or reddish). Underside is cream colored or white. Back is marked by a dark cross, legs have dark bands. Feet are slightly webbed feet with disks on their fingers and toes. Females are larger with lighter coloration. Males may have a flap beneath their throats that varies in color with the seasons. Northern Spring Peepers are more likely to be heard than seen and can be identified by their distinctive high-pitched “peeping”, usually near dusk, in the spring and early summer.

Occurrence:  Abundant

Habitat:  Marsh and forested wetlands. Sphagnum bogs, ponds and swampy areas. Requires wetlands dominated by emergent vegetation for breeding.

Diet:  Ants, flying bugs, beetles, flies, springtails, spiders, mites, ticks and small snails.

Reproduction  Breeds early-March to June. Deposits 800 to 1,800 eggs, attached to underwater plants near the bottom of shallow vegetated ponds. Eggs hatch in 6 to 12 days. Remain in tadpole phase 90 to 100 days.

American spadefoot toads (Scaphiopodidae)

Eastern Spadefoot
(Scaphiopus holbrookii)

Listed as Threatened in Massachusetts

Eastern Spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii) (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain)

Eastern Spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii) Range Map

Description:  1.75 to 2.25 inches long. Usually brown in color, raning to black or gray. Two yellowish lines running from each eye down the back. Often with additional light lines on it’s sides. Has a single, hard and rough, black webbed spade on the bottom of each hind foot.

Occurrence:  Uncommon to rare.

Habitat:  Loose sandy soil without thick leaf litter.

Diet:  Flies, spiders, crickets, caterpillars, true bugs, ground-dwelling arthropods, earthworms and snails. Occasionally moths.

Reproduction  Breeds April to August. Usually April/May. Deposits 1,000 to 2,500 eggs in masses of 6 to 110 in vernal pools. Eggs hatch in 5 to 15 days. Remains in tadpole phase 16 to 20 days.

True Toads (Bufonidae)

American Toad
(Anaxyrus americanus)

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain)

American Toad Range Map

Description:  2 to 4 inches long. Normally brown, ranging through red, olive, or gray. Underside is white or yellow. Coloration varies with environmental conditions. Four toes on front feet and five webbed toes hind feet. Pupils are black, circled by gold. Males have have black or brown throats. Females have white throats. Females are larger. Dark spots the back with one or two warts each, sometimes circled in white or yellow.

Occurrence:  Common

Habitat:  Almost any natural terrestrial habitat. Usually moist upland forest, also yards, gardens. Requires shallow water for breeding.

Diet:  Insects, sowbugs, spiders, centipedes, millepedes, slugs, earthworms.

Reproduction  Breeds early-April to July. Deposits 4,000 to 12,000 eggs in long curling strings amongst underwater vegetation. Eggs hatch between 3 to 12 days. Remains in tadpole phase 5 to 10 weeks.

Fowler’s Toad
(Anaxyrus fowleri)

Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service Public Domain)

Fowler’s Toad Range Map

Description:  2 to 3.75 inches long. Color ranges between brown, gray, or olive green. Light stripe and Black edged dark spots on its back containing three or more warts. White spotted underside, often with a single dark spot. Males are darker in color.

Occurrence:  Locally common.

Habitat:  Areas with sand. Shorelines, river valleys, beaches and roadside areas. Usually open areas but occasionally pine and oak forests, gardens lawns and fields. Also small marshes.

Diet:  Primarily ants and beetles. Also earthworms, spiders, slugs and snails.

Reproduction  Breeds mid-May to mid-August in shallow water. Deposits up to 8,000 eggs in long strings amongst underwater twigs and plants. Eggs hatch in 1 week. Remains in tadpole phase for 40 to 60 days.